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I cannot think, O my God, of any words wherewith to make mention of Thee, and know not how to express or extol Thee. Were I to attempt to describe Thee by Thy names, I would readily recognize that the kingdom of these names is itself created through the movement of Thy fingers, and trembleth for fear of Thee. And were I to venture to extol Thine attributes, I would be forced to admit that these attributes are Thine own creation, and lie within Thy grasp. It behooveth not Them Who are the Manifestations of these names and attributes to stand before the gate of the city of Thy Revelation, how much less to scale the heights whereon Thou didst stablish the throne of Thy majesty. – Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations, p. 273.
During my pilgrimage to the Baha’i World Centre in 2006, I didn’t think I’d have the privilege of seeing the Most Holy Shrine–the Shrine of Baha’u’llah. The regional conflict occurring at that time prevented us from visiting many holy and historical sites that most Baha’is see during their normal nine-day stay.
A hundred and seventy-one Baha’is, hailing from all over the globe, we pilgrims waited patiently through rocket raids, dealt with ever-changing plans, and accepted the challenge of restricted access to historical places and Shrines. By the last day of our pilgrimage, we’d resigned ourselves to the fact that Baha’u’llah’s Shrine would not be on our agenda.
Many of us had been on a waiting list for up to six years for the opportunity to come across the world and visit these beautiful and sacred places. While it was disappointing thinking we’d made it thousands of miles, yet would miss out on such a glorious opportunity, we still appreciated all that we had experienced during our spiritual journey.
To shed some light for those of you not familiar with the region, the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, is located between Akka and Nahariya, in a dangerous area of Northern Israel that received multiple missile attacks while we visited.
On the last evening of our pilgrimage in Haifa, the Universal House of Justice sent for us. We all assembled in the great hall, unsure of what our last program entailed. The House of Justice member started by saying, “It is with great joy…” and then he paused, choking up. Suddenly we knew: we were going to see Baha’u’llah’s Shrine! The room burst into excited laughter and grateful tears.
We then learned that we’d be involved in an undercover operation–under the cover of night, that is. Our instructions were simple but crucial: for everyone’s safety, we must not contact anyone and let them know of our journey to the Shrine; we would be taken in the middle of the night, in several different buses at staggered times; and we would need to exercise silence and move quickly. Someone would call our hotel rooms when the buses arrived at our hotels. As to the time, we only knew that we would be called sometime after midnight.
How can you sleep on such a night?! My husband and I tried, and tried, and finally, sometime after midnight, we managed to drift off.
The phone rang a little after 1:00 a.m. That startling sound sent a jolt of adrenalin and excitement through my body. My husband answered the phone, we got ready quickly, and we headed for the elevator.
The bus sat waiting outside our hotel. Our group boarded the bus, all of moving as quietly and quickly as possible. Remarkably, not a single siren or incoming rocket launched that night, the first night without missile attacks in the entire nine days we’d spent in the region. We could only hear our breathing, the peaceful sounds of crickets, and the wind.
In the dark night, I couldn’t see much of the gardens or the buildings around the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, but that didn’t seem to matter. The most important thing was that we’d made it, and the majesty and tranquility of the Shrine amazed us. I felt that magical magnetic pull again, and knew that the spiritual and physical beauty of the Shrine would stay with me forever.
Our time inside the Shrine, though less than half an hour, was well worth the entire pilgrimage trip. We prayed, meditated and reflected on Baha’u’llah’s life and message. The peace I felt surged through my spirit, and I felt blessed at having experienced such a great honor. I longed to better apply Baha’u’llah’s teachings in my everyday life; and I longed to refresh the world with the “invigorating breeze of love and fellowship,” as Baha’u’llah urged us all to do:
This is the Day whereon the Ocean of God’s mercy hath been manifested unto men, the Day in which the Daystar of His loving-kindness hath shed its radiance upon them, the Day in which the clouds of His bountiful favor have overshadowed the whole of mankind. Now is the time to cheer and refresh the down-cast through the invigorating breeze of love and fellowship, and the living waters of friendliness and charity. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 7.